Livestock proposal causing strife for Sawmills

Jun. 18, 2014 @ 04:21 PM

Goats, donkeys, sheep and other livestock could be tramping through farms large or small inside the town limits of Sawmills if the town council can come to an agreement about the acreage that can support these animals.

But the details were a point of contention during a Sawmills Town Council meeting Tuesday night. The proposed livestock text amendment to the town’s zoning ordinances was tabled until further research can be done.

Also Tuesday, the town council approved its 2014-15 budget proposal, which totals just over $2 million plus just over $1 million for the water and sewer fund. 

The livestock issue came up because a man wanted to buy land within the town limits of Sawmills to run a farm, planner Elinor Hiltz said. But Sawmills has no ordinances on livestock other than fowl, so livestock such as pigs, cows and donkeys are illegal within the town limits, Town Administrator Seth Eckard said.

The proposed amendment would allow one horse per acre. Swine, except for pot-bellied pigs, would not be allowed. All other livestock, such as goats, sheep and donkeys, could be kept inside the town limits if the landowner had at least half an acre per two animals and kept pens and barns at least 100 feet away from neighbors’ houses and other structures. Any property over 10 acres would have no restriction on livestock.

Jeff Branch, a town resident who also serves on the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, said he opposed the proposed minimum number of acres for unrestricted livestock.

“I own nine . . . acres, and if you’ve got to have 10 acres to have this, from what I’m understanding, I just appreciate it if you could go back and look at this a little more,” Branch said. “I think there’s work to be done on this.”

Council member Joe Wesson said that property owners, regardless of acreage, should be able to own whatever livestock they wish as long as the animals are well cared for.

“They should be able to put what they want on their property,” Wesson said. “As long as they’re being fed and everything, I don’t see a problem with it.”

Gerelene Blevins, however, said that the town needs to consider the effects on neighbors of animal owners. If more than two animals are taking up residence on a half acre, for example, the smell, noise and other conditions could pose as a nuisance, she said.

“I don’t want somebody to bring one (goat) in next to my house because they don’t have that much land anyway,” Blevins said.

Nothing was said about how residents who already own livestock would be affected. The town council plans to consider the proposal again in August.

Also Tuesday, Julie Good was formally named as the new town clerk, though she began the job May 27. Good had worked as an administrative assistant since September 2008.